The 12 Rules of Survival | Episode 30: The Energy of Being


Nicholas Belardes is a dual-ethnic Chicano writer. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in the YA-themed edition of The Latinx Archive: Speculative Fiction for Dreamers (Ohio State University Press), Southwestern American Literature (Texas State University), Carve Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Barrelhouse, and others.

He illustrated map drawings for the New York Times best-selling novel West of Here, and is the author of the first twitterature in novel form, Small Places, which has been studied as part of digimodernism in literature by scholars who seek to discover the fusion of art with digital technologies, in specific, electronic fiction as a new literary current.

Sometimes a ghostwriter of contemporary fiction and YA, he currently lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his wife Jane. The 12 Rules of Survival is his first MG novel. You can find him at or on Twitter @nickbelardes

Artist: Timothy Banks or on Twitter  @teabanks

The Energy of Being

Energy is inside me. It’s inside you. There’s good energy, bad energy, strange energy, dog energy, cat energy, people energy, thought energy, homework energy, positive energy, negative energy, mountain energy, fire troll energy, universe energy, music energy, galactic energy . . . Every kind of energy exists. I can’t list them all or would never even try. It would take a hundred thousand pages and a hundred years to write them all.

Right now, most of my energy has melted away. Without it, I feel like a dried-out fish. I’m just a sea monkey, doing nothing, waiting for someone to pour the right kind of water onto my dried bits so I can come back to life, swim around, and be happy.

I wonder if this lack of energy has something to do with Mason when he freaked out in front of me. It plays over and over again like a recording. I see his eyes swirling with pain, his nostrils flaring and hands making fists. His pain isn’t caused by me. He isn’t hating me. His pain caused by something else deep inside him. It has something to do with his own life.

The strange thing is I feel like this is the first time I’ve realized that everyone has problems, that everyone has to have the strength to deal with them, and at the same time, must have the energy to do all of the millions of things people do to make life happen, like go to school, or work, or drive Gabby, or pilot a spaceship, or be a dad, or a daughter, or a son, or a parent, and then somehow, in the day-after-day business and craziness of it all, find the right kind of energy that works, that keeps everything in balance.

I guess it’s not that easy to find balance.

I was up late last night googling everything about surviving underground. One brain expert in an article about the trapped workers said that the earthquake probably caused everyone in the tunnels to freeze, to just stand there, like if a gorilla were to walk in a room, most people would take a moment and just stand there in disbelief and stare at the thing drooling before deciding to run for their lives. The brain experts talk about something else too: starvation. Starvation causes hallucinations about food. They say that people trapped underground share their food fantasies. And then, they say, after a while people lose their strength to continue. They lose their mental energy. Some curl into balls and wait for the inevitable, which those trapped might wrongly think is the end. The end. No more. No eternal whatever but a big black dark hole. No amusement park on a faraway cloud. And then I think—I’m so happy the workers aren’t starving. I don’t know. I hardly think about it. I think that Dad will be rescued, that Mason’s torment of me will somehow finally stop. I really want a lot of things to stop and other things to never end.

Everything is confusing.

Mrs. Lucas sometimes says to the class: “Don’t give away your power or happiness.” Maybe it isn’t Mason that finally drained me. Could the distance between Dad and I have zapped my power? I sure feel confused, hurt, and lately, mentally weak. In the fire Dad and I were always together. But not now. It feels like I’ve given something away. Dad. Happiness. Power. Everything. Mrs. Lucas would call this feeling “despair.” She’d make me define it. I’m guessing Patricia the social worker and Mom would too. Maybe even Grandma Benita.

That’s why I’ve decided what to do next.

No one will like it. It may not make me happy, or anyone else. But it just might bring me some of that power back. The Eleventh Rule of Survival after all is Stay Mentally Strong.

And the only way I can do that is by going into the mountain.